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Staying anonymous online

If you’re concerned about staying anonymous online, check out the links at the end of this article. Here are just some tips from my personal experience.

1. Don’t share information unnecessarily

With powerful search engines, it becomes easy for information shared in one context to be connected with your identity in another. This is particularly dangerous with social media where you connect to friends and family. Does Facebook know your date of birth, the names of your parents, spouse or kids? A birth date and mother’s maiden name might be enough to compromise one of your online accounts. I personally don’t share information on Facebook outside my friends (after birthers started using Facebook information about me for harassment), but I still have Facebook friends that I don’t really know! 😳

You have to be aware, mindful and intentional to maintain an anonymous identity online. You have to be careful what you say, and where you say it. Take this snippet from the BirtherReport Google+ profile:

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It seems harmless enough, but it is a powerful hint. Orly Taitz named Thomas Washington in 2012 as the person behind Birther Report (assisted by Bob Nelson, unless Thomas Washington is just an alias). For several reasons, I agree with that identification. As of today one can view the 60 persons in Washington’s Google+ circle and see his video feed tests for Birther Report videos of Mike Zullo at the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association meeting. I haven’t researched mollesjohn except to note that he is a birther based on several YouTube video comments (just a click away) such as:

I see rosemarie443 is back doing what she’s paid to do: play the role of bigoted birther, in order to protect Obama and scroll off all relevant discussion.

2. Email addresses

If you’re trying to maintain an anonymous persona online, it will need an email address, one that you use for nothing else. You have to be intentional about keeping these separate. I recently sent out by accident a set of financial reports to our church council from my Dr. Conspiracy account. That was interesting.

One should take seriously the incident in Sweden of email addresses harvested from an online discussion platform, even though they were supposed to be hidden. The Obama Conspiracy Theories blog does NOT require you to provide a valid email address—just say "none@obamaconspiracy.org".

Don’t put your real name in your email address at all. You should assume that any time you use an email address, it will go somewhere you didn’t intend. One option for using an email address solely for the purpose of registering for some service, is to get a disposable email address from a service like Ten Minute Mail. I have found the Fake Name Generator page a lot of fun, where in addition to a full set of fake information, they will provide you with a working email address (not tried).

imageYou might think that when you send a private email message to someone, it stays private, but look at this screen shot from a brief filed by Christopher Strunk. I won’t show it full size, but what we see here is a list of persons, many with email addresses. I recognize one name on the list as one of the particularly nasty anonymous (but not really because they were careless) posters at BirtherReport.

Another source of email disclosure is online newsletters. I was going through my own email collection today and I found several right-wing newsletters that contained long lists of email addresses of those who also got the same mailing.

Newsletter Header

 

3. Domain registration

I was originally outed by one of Orly’s readers through the domain registration of this blog. When the blog started, it was intended to be a short-lived enterprise, and that no “Dr. Conspiracy” online persona would evolve. That changed slowly, but I didn’t think to change the domain registration. Some domain registrars offer anonymous registrations for a fee and some offer the service for free, such as DreamHost.

4. IP Addresses

Generally, someone cannot look up your name using an IP address without a court order, but you can be identified if you use the same IP address for your anonymous persona as you use for a public persona—and someone gets both. I can use, for example, an IP address to see when someone is trying to evade a ban here by changing their name. There are proxy services that obscure your IP address if this is a concern. I’ve never used one–I just wait until I am traveling to post some new persona at Orly’s blog.

See also:

References:

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17 Responses to Staying anonymous online

  1. avatar
    roadburner January 3, 2015 at 4:17 pm #

    ah! mollesjohn!…i’ve had soooo much fun bitchslapping him all over youtube (using my fred smith account)

    rosemarie?…hmmm…still not convinced she’s for real. she’s either a really good troll, or a person in the very real first stages of demementia, but it was the first option that i’m thinking is the case. stopped replying to her now – too tedious

    for birther related stuff i have this login here, fred smith and e.p.lovejoy, all of which lead to dead end e-mail addresses.

  2. avatar
    Dr. Conspiracy January 3, 2015 at 4:28 pm #

    I really don’t have an anonymous online identity, since Dr. Conspiracy is identified here on the blog. I have a couple of sock puppets at Orly’s just because she auto-deletes anything I have to say under my real name. They are rarely used, primarily to provide information. They do give me an idea of how tightly censored Orly’s blog is.

  3. avatar
    Dr. Conspiracy January 3, 2015 at 4:57 pm #

    I have a copy of the book “Darknet: A Beginner’s Guide to Staying Anonymous” but I haven’t read it yet.

  4. avatar
    Nancy R Owens January 3, 2015 at 5:55 pm #

    This is exactly why I would hate to see this blog shut down, Doc.

  5. avatar
    gorefan January 3, 2015 at 8:09 pm #

    “One should take seriously the incident in Sweden of email addresses harvested from an online discussion platform, even though they were supposed to be hidden. The Obama Conspiracy Theories blog does NOT require you to provide an email address—just leave it blank.”

    Why does the e-mail line say “Email (will not be published) (required)”

    When I posted this comment with the e-mail line blank, I get an error message. Something about required entry missing.

  6. avatar
    gorefan January 3, 2015 at 8:59 pm #

    “none” gave me the same error message. Missing entry.

  7. avatar
    Dr. Conspiracy January 3, 2015 at 9:01 pm #

    OK OK. None@obamaconspiracy.org

    gorefan:
    “none” gave me the same error message.Missing entry.

  8. avatar
    RanTalbott January 4, 2015 at 12:33 am #

    roadburner: ah! mollesjohn!…i’ve had soooo much fun bitchslapping him all over youtube

    I’m becoming increasingly convinced that he’s a troll, partly because it’s hard to believe that anyone that stupid hasn’t already made the Darwin awards.

    He recently added to that impression by concocting a fake resume, in which he got some crucial facts wrong, to pretend that he had some software expertise that he never claimed to have before (Up until now, he’s claimed to be as “graphics expert”, but refused to offer anything to back that up, while getting caught making claims that a sharp high school student wouldn’t fall for).

    But he’s not a very good troll: when I finally shot down his claim that I had no graphics expertise by pointing out that I had books on computers and graphics published by McGraw-Hill when he was, at most, a child (and possibly before he was even born), he decided that the way to “rebut” that was by claiming that I was actually Frank Arduini. Who actually has a better-documented career in technology than mine, since he’s spent his career working in big companies, instead of tiny start-ups that usually didn’t survive.

    Not exactly the sharpest spoon in the drawer.

    roadburner: rosemarie?…hmmm…still not convinced she’s for real.

    A lot of the doubt about that went away in the last few days, when she (assuming she really is female) created a sock puppet who keeps cutting and pasting from her postings on the the very same youtube video. I think she’s starting to flail.

  9. avatar
    Lupin January 4, 2015 at 5:40 am #

    I don’t particularly care who knows who I am, but if I were to wish to remain anonymous, (1) I’d make 150% sure I have no keystroke capture spyware on my computer (that’s the #1 fail, I think) and (2) I’d use TOR (although i’m told GnuPGP is still OK). But who wants to live like a secret agent?

  10. avatar
    roadburner January 4, 2015 at 10:36 am #

    RanTalbott: I

    A lot of the doubt about that went away in the last few days, when she (assuming she really is female) created a sock puppet who keeps cutting and pasting from her postings on the the very same youtube video. I think she’s starting to flail.

    you think she’s burnel preston?

    hmm…think i need to look at the posting style

  11. avatar
    Paul January 4, 2015 at 2:33 pm #

    Here’s a useful site that tells you how to delete your information on sites around the web…

    http://justdelete.me/

    It should be noted that any information you place with WordPress, which obviously is a VERY popular blogging site, remains forever.

  12. avatar
    bovril January 4, 2015 at 3:13 pm #

    The point is to take a measured approach to the potential risk versus the ‘costs’ associated with applying commonsense rules of the Internet road.

    If the government wants to track me, slurping my browser presence, monitor my posting habits etc, I can’t stop them, you can however make it a damn sight HARDER.

    Now, for the majority of us, the real issue is not allowing nasty private folks to penetrate your anonymity.

    Use throw away email accounts or build different personae over time and connect to them anonymously. Use tools like TOR or VPN services in countries that won’t share personal data with the US if a personal (non governmental) data request drops on them.

    Try to be anonymous in your posting style or deliberately chop and change between posting styles, say mix and matching US English and UK English spelling and grammar. If you have a favorite/favourite phrase avoid using it ‘you muppets’…..or use a protagonists fave.

    Assume EVERYTHING you post will come back and haunt you so post accordingly.

    If you want to reduce the number and availability of tracks, cookies, malware, spyware etc. on your PC, think about booting a privacy enabled version of Linux off read only media, all the details vanish when the PC reboots. A variant is to run a virtual PC on your PC with the virtual machine image stored on removable media such as a USB drive.

    Not going to stop the NSA/GCHQ’s of this world but why make it easy for trolls and general ass#oles

  13. avatar
    RanTalbott January 4, 2015 at 11:49 pm #

    roadburner: you think she’s burnel preston?

    Could be a change of tactics, but it would be a big one: Burnel’s style is to steal entire postings/webpages by birther bloggers and post them without attribution. He seems to have shut up on the Vose video where I encountered him after I tracked down one of the postings he pirated, and provided the omitted links to the JPEGs that showed the original author flat-out lied about their contents.

  14. avatar
    roadburner January 5, 2015 at 8:20 pm #

    RanTalbott: Could be a change of tactics, but it would be a big one: Burnel’s style is to steal entire postings/webpages by birther bloggers and post them without attribution. He seems to have shut up on the Vose video where I encountered him after I tracked down one of the postings he pirated, and provided the omitted links to the JPEGs that showed the original author flat-out lied about their contents.

    he’s back, and has thrown a good few handfuls of poop at the vose vid comments section

  15. avatar
    Keith January 6, 2015 at 5:24 pm #

    The open thread seems to be closed. This is approximately on topic here.

    The stoopid is strong in this one…

    Maryland Lawmaker Thinks Press Needs His OK To Use His Name, Which Is ‘Kirby Delauter’

    And by the way: Kirby Delauter, Kirby Delauter, Kirby Delauter

  16. avatar
    Keith January 6, 2015 at 5:45 pm #

    Hmmmm. I musta tried the WRONG open thread.